I'm thinking a lot lately about tagging communities (NpTech Tag), information coping skills, and distributed and disperse nature of networked/connected knowledge sharing. I think I'm a digital curator. Steve Rubel has an excellent definition, although it isn't new. The concept of digital curators has been around since the beginning of the Web - at first they were called "Cybrians." In 1999, after working 6 years on the web, I wrote this piece on how my online work had changed based on different job labels.
I realized that while it would be difficult for me to go back to being a mere mortal, the label "goddess" would imply that I was an "expert" not a learner.
That's an important distinction because one key to learning how to use technology is constant and dynamic learning
learning from doing
doing from learning
Now some new labels for of us who are working together to create noncommercial public Arts Web spaces in a globally networked digital environment.
Digital Creative Thinkers
Situated Teacher & Learner
I think in those last few labels I was getting at what Steve Rubel defined as "Digital Curator."
The call of the curator requires people who are selfless and willing to act as sherpas and guides. They're identifiable subject matter experts who dive through mountains of digital information and distill it down to its most relevant, essential parts. Digital Curators are the future of online content. Brands, media companies and dedicated individuals can all become curators. Further, they don't even need to create their own content, just as a museum curator rarely hangs his/her own work next to a Da Vinci. They do, however, need to be subject matter experts.
The other terms ..
Packrat: I think of digital pack rats as using tags and rss to aggregate information - the huge, unfiltered tag stream. Steve Rubel called them "Aggregators." It isn't totally automated, there is some filtering function - as Robin Good identified in this article about NewsMastering.
Editor: Rubel makes a distinction between editor and curator as follows:
The notion of an editor inherently implies that space is finite. Online it's not. Curators don't need to necessarily be trained in cutting, but in knowing where and how to unearth those special high-quality "finds" and to make them presentable. It's just as much about the experience and the way the information is presented, as it is the content.
Perhaps editors are those who also still work in print form too?
Snacker: As conversations and resources become more distributed -- some on social networks, some in tag streams, some on listservs, or blogs -- and the rise of micro media - some people just snack on information -bouncing or multi-tasking from one bit to another.
Rubel ends with this conclusion about about digital curators:
As content universe expands and floods niches, there will always be a market for Digital Curators. The key for brands, individuals and media companies will be to identify those niches where they have deep expertise and to become the best in the world at serving them. I guarantee if you do this well and consistently, your long-term success is essentially guaranteed. And even if you do not have the energy to become a curator, you will certainly be influenced them.